September 9, 2021
One of the many wonderful things about being connected to nature is awareness of the rhythms of the natural world. For instance, spring flowers are followed by summer flowers. Natural rhythms are also apparent with bird migration. Here in Central Texas, spring migration ends in mid-June, but by mid-July the first shorebirds of fall migration are appearing. From that time, an increasing variety of shorebirds pass through each week. The peak migration time for shorebirds is August, when on some days up to 16 species may be present at Hornsby Bend, one of our top local birding areas. The most abundant shorebird is Least Sandpiper, but many other species occur in varying numbers. One day several weeks ago, 143 Wilson's Phalaropes and two Buff-breasted Sandpipers were seen. These are two of my favorite shorebirds. By late August, the first migrant warblers appear, the most common being Yellow Warbler. One day last weekend I saw five species of warblers including Yellow, Wilson’s, Canada, Mourning, and Nashville. Some observers saw flocks of hundreds of Mississippi Kites! Soon, more migrating hawks will appear, followed thereafter by the first sparrows of winter. In nature there is always so much to enjoy and so much to look forward to.
Our U.S. trips are doing very well with great trips in the late spring and summer to Minnesota, Alaska, Arizona, and Washington. From September through December, we expect to operate close to 30 tours including first-ever tours to the Republic of Georgia and Barrow, Alaska in the fall (Alaskan Fall Magic: Ross's Gull Migration & Northern Birds and Mammals).
IN THIS ISSUE:
Despite continuing mixed news from the pandemic front, I have been heartened by the good news from Latin America, where vaccination rates have been surging and incidence of infection declining. Some countries have now surpassed the United States in terms of the percentage of their populations vaccinated. One place where conditions have improved dramatically is Panama.
After being without vaccines until earlier this year, Panama has been doing well in vaccinating its citizens with shots produced by Pfizer and AstraZeneca. At the lodges where our tour groups stay—Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge, and Canopy Camp—all of the guides, drivers, and other lodge staff have been vaccinated. These lodges have been accepting guests for almost a year. No guest has tested positive for Covid after staying at any of the three lodges. Furthermore, these lodges are set in lightly populated areas away from urban environments. For these reasons and others, I feel that Panama is among the safest options for international travel at this time.
I have long regarded Panama as one of the best places to visit. The birding is sensational. Our trips regularly record around 300 species of birds, many of which are among the most beautiful birds in the world. Our Panama tours are co-led by experienced VENT tour leaders who work with top-notch local guides. Because we operate more tours to these lodges than any other company, VENT gets the best prices. As a result, we are able to offer our tours at very competitive rates. Panama is easily accessed by air from a number of U.S. cities.
To convey a feeling for the marvelous birding and natural history wonders of Panama, I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to watch a video produced for VENT by wildlife photographer Dick Walton, entitled Panama with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours – Part 1. Click here to view the video on YouTube. After you watch it, you will want to register right away on one of our Panama tours!
Panama has been one of VENT's favorite destinations for over 40 years. I personally have led more tours in Panama than any other international destination. We are excited to be offering six Panama tours in the next four months. Two of these departures are sold out, with only limited space remaining on the others. I am pleased to announce that I will join our upcoming tour, Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower, October 16–23, as a co-leader with Willy Hutcheson. Additionally, I will be pleased to celebrate my birthday on the last night of the tour. I hope you will consider joining Willy and me for what promises to be a wonderful trip.
If you are not able to join that trip, perhaps one of our other upcoming tours to Panama will interest you.
Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp, October 2–10, 2021 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $3,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12; 2 spaces available.
Panama: Fall at El Valle’s Canopy Lodge, October 9–16, 2021 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $2,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12; 2 spaces available.
Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower, October 16–23, 2021 with Willy Hutcheson, Victor Emanuel, and a local leader; $2,795 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12; 6 spaces available. $500 price reduction! Published fee was $3,295. Join this tour and help Victor celebrate his birthday on the last night!
Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp, January 8–16, 2022 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $4,395 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12; 4 spaces available.
The first international departure we’ve operated since March 2020 was a late July/early August tour to the Bogotá, Eastern Andes, and Magdalena Valley regions of Colombia. The trip was led by longtime VENT tour leader Steve Hilty. Because this tour was our first outside the United States in 16 months, we were especially assiduous in our preparations. With a number of other international tours on the schedule this fall and winter, it was imperative that this tour be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
After the tour, Steve sent me the kind of report that I’d been hoping for. As it turned out, he and our travelers had a wonderful time. Steve wrote, "This Colombia trip went well. No problems anywhere. In Bogotá and other major cities, 98% of the people were masked indoors and outdoors. The driver of our tour vehicle and the co-leader of our tour were both vaccinated. Virtually all meals were in open-air situations. And the birding was excellent. Two of the best birding days were near the village of Santa Maria, where we saw exciting species such as White-tipped Sicklebill, Black-and-white Owl, and Spectacled Nightingale-Thrush. Later in the trip, at a private reserve, we were treated to a parade of hummingbirds, tanagers, and many other species at feeders. Our host, Anni, served us a home-cooked breakfast. Among the trip highlights were 51 species of hummingbirds and 59 species of tanagers.”
During the trip Steve was asked to give brief video interviews in Spanish, which were posted online, and to briefly speak to a group of 30 young biologists from Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia who were attending a birding/conservation/ecological workshop.
Steve continues, “The number of young birders as well as birding festivals in Colombia is exploding, something that to me is extremely gratifying and that bodes well for the future of biodiversity of this remarkable country. Almost 2,000 species of birds have been recorded in Colombia. Over 70 of these species are endemic."
After the trip, Steve received the following message from one of the participants: “Dear Steve, this was the best birding trip I’ve ever taken! I’m so grateful for the kind, talented people with a great sense of humor…winners all. We appreciated the tremendous effort you made and the depth of your birding knowledge.”
I was delighted to have received Steve’s positive report. Our return to full tour operations has required a step by step, time consuming approach. Our ability to operate a tour to Colombia seamlessly and without incident provides our staff and customers with confidence as we begin venturing back out into the world.
Steve Hilty is among the deans of Neotropical ornithology and a legendary figure in Colombia. His Guide to the Birds of Colombia, published in 1986, set the standard for modern field guides to the birds of South America. Now, fully 35 years after the production of his landmark guide, Steve has produced a revised edition, Birds of Colombia (2021), published by Lynx Edicions. Looking ahead, VENT will operate six tours to Colombia from late November through mid-March. Two will be led by Steve Hilty while the others will be led by David Ascanio. I hope you will join one of these fine trips.
Colombia: Hummingbirds & Tanagers of the Western Andes: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, November 27–December 4, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,495 in double occupancy from Cali. Limit 10; 4 spaces available.
Colombia: The Central & Western Andes: Hummingbirds, Antpittas, Tanagers & Andean Endemics, December 2–17, 2021 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $6,995 in double occupancy from Medellín (ends in Bogotá). Limit 8; 2 spaces available.
Colombia: Hummingbirds & Tanagers of the Western Andes: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, December 5–12, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,495 in double occupancy from Cali. Limit 10; 4 spaces available.
A Birding Adventure in the Llanos of Colombia: Hato La Aurora, January 2–9, 2022 with David Ascanio; $3,595 in double occupancy from Bogotá; Limit 8. Sold out! Join the waitlist.
Undiscovered Eastern Colombia: Birding Secrets of the White Sands of Inirida, January 9–16, 2022 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,295 in double occupancy from Bogotá. Limit 8; 1 space available.
Colombia: The Central & Western Andes: Hummingbirds, Antpittas, Tanagers & Andean Endemics, February 24–March 11, 2022 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $6,995 in double occupancy from Medellín (ends in Bogotá). Limit 8.
Our VENT Webinars continue to be very popular. One of our best efforts to date was our most recent presentation featuring our Amazon River Cruise in which VENT tour leader David Ascanio profiled the Amazon, the greatest river in the world, and the joys of the VENT trip there. I strongly urge you to watch this fascinating presentation. Please click here to view the webinar on our YouTube channel.
After a challenging 15 months we are very glad to be able to operate most of our tours moving forward. As vaccination rates improve worldwide, we expect conditions conducive to travel to continue to improve. Pursuant to this point, our next VENT Webinar will not feature a particular tour, destination, or group of birds, but rather will address the topic of travel amid such challenging times. This presentation, Traveling with VENT in the Time of Covid, will air on Thursday, October 7, at 1:00 p.m. CDT. Click here for more information and to register. I hope you will join us for this important event.
As summer grades into fall, we look forward to seeing more migrant birds and to celebrating our 45th Anniversary Celebration in McAllen, Texas in November. We hope you and your family and friends are having time in nature and that you stay well.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours | 2525 Wallingwood Drive, Suite 1003 | Austin, TX 78746
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